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What Are The Penalties For Failure To Provide Adequate Care For Your Animals (“Animal Neglect”) In Michigan?

 

Owning a pet or any other animal comes with the inherent responsibility to provide care and support to that animal.  Neglecting to provide this care can cause the animal to suffer, become malnourished and even lead to death.  It is not only immoral to neglect to care for the pets and animals under your control, but it is also illegal under Michigan law.  Violating the animal neglect statutes can lead to criminal charges resulting in fines, probation and even imprisonment.

In Michigan, “[a]n owner, possessor, breeder, operator of a pet shop, or person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not do any of the following:”

  • “Fail to provide an animal with adequate care.” MCL 750.50(2)(a).
  • “Cruelly drive, work, or beat an animal, or cause an animal to be cruelly driven, worked, or beaten.” MCL 750.50(2)(b).
  • “Carry or cause to be carried in or upon a vehicle or otherwise any live animal having the feet or legs tied together, other than an animal being transported for medical care or a horse whose feet are hobbled to protect the horse during transport, or in any other cruel and inhumane manner.” MCL 750.50(2)(c).
  • “Carry or cause to be carried a live animal in or upon a vehicle or otherwise without providing a secure space, rack, car, crate, or cage in which livestock may stand and in which all other animals may stand, turn around, and lie down during transportation, or while awaiting slaughter. As used in this subdivision, for purposes of transportation of sled dogs, “stand” means sufficient vertical distance to allow the animal to stand without its shoulders touching the top of the crate or transportation vehicle.” MCL 750.50(2)(d).
  • “Abandon an animal or cause an animal to be abandoned, in any place, without making provisions for the animal’s adequate care, unless premises are vacated for the protection of human life or the prevention of injury to a human. An animal that is lost by an owner or custodian while traveling, walking, hiking, or hunting is not abandoned under this section when the owner or custodian has made a reasonable effort to locate the animal.” MCL 750.50(2)(e).
  • “Negligently allow any animal, including one who is aged, diseased, maimed, hopelessly sick, disabled, or nonambulatory to suffer unnecessary neglect, torture, or pain.” MCL 750.50(2)(f).
  • “Tether a dog unless the tether is at least 3 times the length of the dog as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail and is attached to a harness or nonchoke collar designed for tethering. This subdivision does not apply if the tethering of the dog occurs while the dog is being groomed, trained, transported, or used in a hunt or event where a shorter tether is necessary for the safety and well-being of the dog and others.” MCL 750.50(2)(g).

The definition of “animal” for this statute means “a vertebrate other than a human being.”  MCL 750.50(1)(b).  This covers any animal with a backbone that includes dogs, cats, birds, horses, fish, turtles and rats.

“Adequate care” means “the provision of sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise, and veterinary medical attention in order to maintain an animal in a state of good health.”  MCL 750.50(1)(a).  “Neglect” means “to fail to sufficiently and properly care for an animal to the extent that the animal’s health is jeopardized.”  MCL 750.50(1)(h).  You do not have to be the owner of the animal to be found guilty of this statute.  In People v Johnson, 104 Mich App 629; 305 NW2d 560 (1981), the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of a man who owned horses that were underfed, medically neglected and near death.  Although he was the owner, he hired another individual who was solely responsible for the care of the horses that neglected to do so.  Due to the lack of evidence that the horses were in his “charge or custody”, the conviction was vacated (although the conviction against the non-owning hired individual was permitted to stand).

In 2007, the Michigan Legislature amended the animal neglect statutes to provide sentencing enhancements from misdemeanors to felonies based on the number of animals involved or the number of prior convictions of animal neglect.  The penalties for violating these animal neglect laws are as follows:

  • If the violation involved only one animal, then the person is guilty of a misdemeanor contrary to MCL 750.50(4)(a) punishable by one or more of the following:
    1. A fine up to $1,000.00.
    2. Up to 93 days in jail.
    3. Up to 200 hours of community service.
    4. Must pay the costs of prosecution.
  • If the violation involved 2 or 3 animals OR the death of any animal AND the person has no prior convictions for animal neglect, then the person is guilty of a misdemeanor contrary to MCL 750.50(4)(b) punishable by one or more of the following:
    1. A fine up to $2,000.00.
    2. Up to one year in jail.
    3. Up to 300 hours of community service.
    4. Must pay the costs of prosecution.
  • If the violation involved 4 to 9 animals OR the person has one prior conviction for animal neglect, then the person is guilty of a felony contrary to MCL 750.50(4)(c) punishable by one or more of the following:
    1. A fine up to $2,000.00.
    2. Up to 2 years in state prison.
    3. Up to 300 hours of community service.
    4. Must pay the costs of prosecution.
  • If the violation involved 10 to 24 animals OR the person has two prior convictions for animal neglect, then the person is guilty of a felony contrary to MCL 750.50(4)(d) punishable by one or more of the following:
    1. A fine up to $5,000.00.
    2. Up to 4 years in state prison.
    3. Up to 500 hours of community service.
    4. Must pay the costs of prosecution.
  • If the violation involved 25 or more animals OR the person has three or more prior convictions for animal neglect, then the person is guilty of a felony contrary to MCL 750.50(4)(e) punishable by one or more of the following:
    1. A fine up to $10,000.00.
    2. Up to 7 years in state prison.
    3. Up to 500 hours of community service.
    4. Must pay the costs of prosecution.
    5. The court may place the defendant on probation for ANY term of years, but not less than 5 years. MCL 750.50(10).
  • If the violation involved a breeder or operator of a pet shop AND the person has five or more prior convictions for violating animal industry laws, then the person is guilty of a felony contrary to MCL 750.50(4)(f) punishable by one or more of the following:
    1. A fine up to $5,000.00.
    2. Up to 2 years in state prison.

Anyone who is charged of any of the above offenses is subject to the following additional provisions:

  • The prosecuting attorney can file a civil action requesting that the affected animals(s) are forfeited to the animal control shelter or a licensed veterinarian prior to final disposition of the charge. A hearing will be scheduled before a judge (no jury) where the prosecutor has the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that a violation of the animal neglect laws under MCL 750.50(2) occurred.  If the prosecutor meets the burden of proof, then the animal is forfeited to the animal control shelter or a licensed veterinarian unless the defendant can post a bond within 72 hours in an amount sufficient to care for the animal until trial.  MCL 750.50(3).
  • A violation of the animal neglect statute does not prohibit a person from being charged with, convicted of, or punished for any other violation of law arising out of the same transaction. MCL 750.50(6).
  • The court may order a term of imprisonment imposed for a violation of these animal neglect laws to be served consecutively to a term of imprisonment imposed for ANY OTHER crime including any other violation of law arising out of the same transaction. MCL 750.50(7).
  • As a part of a sentence for animal neglect, the court may order the defendant to pay the costs of the care, housing, and veterinary medical care for the animal, as applicable. If the court does not order a defendant to pay all of the applicable costs listed, or orders only partial payment of these costs, the court shall state on the record the reason for that action. MCL 750.50(8).
  • As a part of a sentence for animal neglect, the court may, as a condition of probation, order the defendant not to own or possess an animal for a period of time not to exceed the period of probation. If a person is convicted of a second or subsequent animal neglect violation, the court may order the defendant not to own or possess an animal for any period of time, including permanent relinquishment of animal ownership. MCL 750.50(9).  A person who owns or possesses an animal in violation of this probation order is subject to revocation of probation if the order is issued as a condition of probation. A person who owns or possesses an animal in violation of this is also subject to the civil and criminal contempt power of the court, and if found guilty of criminal contempt, may be punished by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.  MCL 750.50(10).

These laws do not prohibit the lawful killing of an animal, including any of the following:

  • Fishing. MCL 750.50(12)(a).
  • Hunting, trapping, or wildlife control regulated under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. MCL 750.50(12)(b).
  • Horse racing. MCL 750.50(12)(c).
  • The operation of a zoological park or aquarium. MCL 750.50(12)(d).
  • Pest or rodent control regulated under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. MCL 750.50(12)(e).
  • Farming or a generally accepted animal husbandry or farming practice involving livestock. MCL 750.50(12)(f).
  • Scientific research. MCL 750.50(12)(g) and (h).
  • The lawful killing or use of an animal under the Animal Industry Act (e.g. slaughterhouses). MCL 750.50(12)(i).

A charge of animal neglect is a serious matter because a felony conviction can impact your employment opportunities, housing prospects and community reputation.  You may not be able to own an animal for a long time.  It is critical to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner to aggressively protect your rights. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you navigate the challenging criminal justice system and work to obtain a favorable outcome.

If you or a loved one are charged with any crime, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.

 

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